U.S. Sen. Patty Murray on Thursday applauded recent actions by the Biden administration to protect abortion access following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal right to the procedure, but said more needed to be done.
“I think he has, in the last week, made some steps,” said Murray, speaking at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Spokane after meeting privately with patients and providers. “But I think they need to, at every level, every agency, do whatever they can that is in their purview, because this is about saving women’s lives.”
President Joe Biden last week said during a meeting with Democratic governors, including Jay Inslee of Washington, that his administration would ensure access to contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, protect the right of patients to seek care across state lines, and called for the end of the filibuster in the Senate to pave the way for codification of abortion care even without 60 votes in that chamber.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have hinted that the Supreme Court’s decision could pave the way for further action at the federal level governing abortion. GOP lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have publicly stated support for some measures that would restrict abortion, including at the 15-week mark and even at conception.
“We will continue to look wherever we can go to save as many lives as possible,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said following the Supreme Court decision last month. He later signaled leadership support for a bill that would ban abortions at 15 weeks of gestation.
Elisabeth Kraus, a local mother and advocate for reproductive care access, was one of the patients who met with Murray on Thursday at the clinic in Spokane. Kraus has had two abortions, in both instances after 16 weeks when the pregnancy threatened her own life. One of a pair of twins died in the womb and she developed sepsis, and in the second pregnancy, a bout of pneumonia led to coughing that damaged the placenta and caused massive, life-threatening bleeding.
“Abortion saved my life,” Kraus said. “I understand for a lot of people that’s oxymoronic.”
In the first case, the abortion saved her life and allowed “my son to pass in peace,” she said. In the other, the decision had to be made so quickly that a trip to another state for care, as has been established following the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, would have caused her to bleed out on the side of the road, Kraus said.
While both Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, on recent trips, demonstrated intense concern for continued access to care, Kraus said she didn’t feel the same sense of urgency from the White House or some lawmakers on the issue.
“What I see is sort of a profound misunderstanding of the urgency,” Kraus said. “They don’t understand what to be urgent about.”
Local providers expect a potentially five-fold increase in the number of people seeking care at clinics in Washington state, based on legislation in the books in more than half of U.S. states that will reduce or eliminate the ability for someone to seek an abortion based on the Supreme Court ruling, said Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.
“This needs to be treated like the urgent health care crisis that it is,” Dillon said.
Murray continued a call on Thursday for voters to elect candidates that support abortion access in November, eventually ending the filibuster that requires a 60-vote majority for most legislation to pass in the Senate.
“I know it’s hard for them, but I hope they stand up and make their voices heard, and encourage people to vote,” Murray said of people concerned about the Supreme Court’s decision. “Because the real solution to this is to make sure we have a pro-choice, Democratic U.S. Senate and House, and codify Roe into law.”
Kraus said she intended to make that argument through her own story, one of the specifics behind late-term abortions that many voters may not understand.
“I think the door to finding solutions has to start with accurate storytelling and accurate information,” she said. “There needs to be a really huge push to educate the public about what we mean when we say abortion is healthcare.”